Growing up, I confess that Memorial Day didn’t have much of an impact on me. I didn’t personally know any veterans and didn’t fully understand the sacrifices made by those in the armed services.
Then came September 11th. I was a sophomore in college, and suddenly we were at war. That day, as I sat with my friends watching those towers fall, I knew everything would change. We all thought the draft would be reinstated, and recognized that no matter what, people we knew would enlist.
And enlist they did. Good friends joined the Army special forces, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. An anxiety filled my heart that I hadn’t felt before – part of me was always thinking of them, wondering if they were okay. When I heard of a service person injured or killed in the line of duty, I didn’t quite breathe until I realized that I didn’t recognize the name. In 2007, a childhood friend was killed by a roadside bomb while helping to rebuild Afghanistan, and my heart ached (and still does) for his family.
Now, when Memorial Day arrives each year, I remember people who were my own age. It is no longer an abstract holiday for me; it’s not only for older men who fought in wars that happened before I was born. It’s about men and women who have their whole lives ahead of them, and yet have already faced hardships that I can only imagine.
Most of my friends are back in the United States now, thankfully – one after three tours in Iraq. And even though not every veteran has physical scars from their service, many suffer emotionally and have a hard time adjusting back into civilian life.
Taking a moment to remember…and offer support
This Memorial Day, as we take time to honor those we’ve lost in the line of duty, let’s also think of those who have returned to civilian life and need our support. Here are three organizations (recommended by a veteran pal of mine – thanks Ben!) that are truly making a difference and providing valuable services:
American Corporate Partners
ACP’s mentor program pairs veterans with executives at top companies like AT&T, Pepsico, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. Veterans receive guidance and advice on all things career-related, and can take advantage of the vast networking opportunities of their highly successful mentors.
United War Veterans Council
Among other outreach, the UWVC puts on the famous Veterans Day Parade in New York City each year. More than just a parade, events like this create an overlapping community between military life and civilian life. For veterans who feel isolated by their military service and have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life, UWVC helps ease the transition.
Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project gives direct aid to veterans who were injured in the line of duty. They help wounded veterans get access to medical care (which is more difficult than it should be), secure jobs and develop careers, and readjust to civilian life.
The hardships faced by military personnel don’t end the moment they return to the United States. For many veterans, especially those who have been injured or traumatized, the hardest days are still before them.
This Memorial Day, as you think about those we have lost, please also consider those who continue to pay a hefty price for their service; they truly have sacrificed for our country. The organizations I mentioned above aren’t the only non-profits that could benefit from your generosity. If you feel so moved, check out the JustGive Guide for more.
What veteran’s organizations do you support? Do you know a veteran who has been helped by non-profit services? We’d love to hear about it – leave us a comment below or share your story on our Facebook page!
– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager